Hi.  I'm the Layman Pascal.  

And, look, I'm no expert on Ferrer (pictured below from his early TV work).  However a few of his points agitate my nostrils and get my goat.  I love that goat!  To say these words, even in silliness, is something like praise.  Why?  Because one is seldom irritated by positions unless they stand close enough to one's own sentiments -- they are same enough to be different.  

Or maybe Ferrer isn't even standing there?  I am not a comprehensive student of his nuances.  I am clearly speaking "against" the partial, hypothetical argument of Somebody-Who-Ferrer-Superficially-Makes-Me-Think-Of.  That guy's positions, presumably, do not characterize the total depth of Ferrer's understanding -- nor should they.  We are dealing with Somebody who is vaguely Ferrerish in certain respects.  To deal with Ferrer I would have to become Ferrer!

So what is an over-generalization of this mysterious Somebody's positions?  Basically that some (or most) integrative approaches to religious pluralism maintain a non-objective privileging of certain religions above others.  Or else they tend toward a reductive, merely psychologizing, elimination of the transcendental-ontological element upon which religion depends.  And that, further, the future of religion may be approximated by envisioning one or more outcomes based on the interactions or cessations of "religions".

Nothing could be further from the truth... 

1.

True Religious Diversity vs. Diverse "Faith-Traditions"

We should all try to remember the difference between types-of-religious-activity &  historically-nominated "popular faith-traditions".  Integral thinking requires that we dis-embed the former from the latter.  

That does not mean that there is no role for the study of what are conventionally called "religions" nor that we should fail to be generously-hearted and politically pragmatic in honoring their representatives.  Those who say they are Wiccans (and of whom it is said "They are Wiccans!") need not be insulted or trivialized by an attitude which denies Wicca-hood the status of a basic religious categorization.  But at the same time we should be honest with ourselves.

Honesty means taking a stand with our actual position. A relativist enters into a performative contradiction when she denies that "no absolutes" is an absolutist stance.  It is inauthentic.  Likewise it is inauthentic for modern, post-modern and integrative thinker-feelers to allow ethnocentric, tribal and merely conventional naming of "religious traditions" to be the starting point of our study.  We must begin with the evidence of those people who meet our own standard of "really religious" and -- before allowing categorization to occur -- tease them apart from those who merely say (or are said to be) members of this or that group due to their social association with a particular set of symbols and a superficial similarity of practices. 

We should understand that a deeper and more functional set of primary categories of religion, and of our basic sense of religion, are required. The various sub-types of Yoga (a word with almost the same etymology as re-ligio) are one example of a categoreal system much closer in spirit to integral analysis -- for we observe that their are messianic anticipations in Islam, prayerful heavens in Buddhism, Zen forms of Christianity, and many other obvious movements which counteract the conventional distinctions.  This evidence should not be ignored or minimized in favor of the merely popular tendency to think in terms of known religions -- whether half a dozen or several hundred.  

When integral thinkers deal with Buddhism or Christianity or Wicca or anything else they (by the implication of the basic elaborated components of integral thought) should be envisioning, inter alia, levels, lines, quadrants & the "faces of God".  These are the primitive perspectival components upon which typology and therefore group designation should occur. 

This is analogous to the idea that Membership is not democratic.  Democracy is demands a participatory body of individuals whereas "state, party or geographic membership" formally resembles pre-modern social organization.  This is only one area in which we go astray in the very concept of analyzing "problems of democracy" without clarifying that they are the non-democratic elements in the political system.  Likewise our analysis, no matter how advanced, of religion will run aground and stagnate insofar as we permit non-religious phenomena to occupy the status of religious phenomena.  Basic distinctions of this kind must preceded the use of "religious traditions" as a conceptual tool or else the entire enterprise is misled and misleading no matter how brilliant and sympathetic we may find it to be.

An integral vision, for example, treats a Christian person with formal operational cognition and orthodox emotional investments in their cultural imagery, who is co-generating Divinity through a second-person lens as far more equivalent to a Buddhist person doing the same thing as either are in comparison to the next arbitrary person who confesses to subscribe to the same "belief and ritual system".

The epitome of integrative approaches in general demands a pre-clarification of the diverse referents operating behind common signifiers and then a grouping on that basis prior to analysis.  This is the heart of Wilber's approach which we find in areas such as his requirement that one of the 4 or 5 main signifieds of the signifier "spirituality" be specified prior to any theoretically (i.e. not merely evocative, populist) analysis.

What's more, the complaint that any given integrative thinker is privileging this or that tradition (e.g. Advaita, Zen...) depends upon our assumption that such traditions are valid referents within integrative thought -- rather than merely convenient and politically pragmatic illustrations.  We over-emphasize their significance by assuming that their status can be over-emphasized.  It is analogous to the situation of people remaining patterned by the symbols and culture through which they initially accessed higher states of being.  Once they have acknowledged that this is the case we must treat their peculiarities of phrasing in a different light -- as implying a more general phenomenon through their personally-experienced forms of habit.  This should not cause us to overreact as though they were specially citing these forms.

2.

Religion is the Social Correlate but not the Social Extension of Spirituality

We have been exploring the idea that beliefs, the dialectic between believers & non-believers, membership, orthodox mysticism, pre-rationality, conformity, etc. are not notable characteristics of religion per se but rather -- when seen through a developmental lens -- predictable characteristics only of religion at the socio-cognitive worldspace which is itself characterized by those elements.  And to that observation we should add the idea that religion is not merely the social extension of spiritual insights and experiences.  We should not be privileging "spirituality" in our quest to understand religion any more than we should be privileging the intersubjective social organization patterns of traditionalist consciousness.  

In the initial acceptance of standard "religious traditions" as units of organization we risk pathology -- which is the hijacking of more complex layers of integration of understanding by the patterns of less complex or less integrated systems.  When an organism serves geology instead of life it is pathological.  When a modern, post-modern or integrative soul using ethnocentric "believer-based" notions of religion there is likewise a problematic risk.  However there is another risk which is not pathological in this same sense.  It results from a failure to differentiate between the core of religious activity and the core of spiritual activity.  This is a common conflation in people who feel that a great deal of pragmatic spiritual wisdom and practice is under-emphasized by putative "religious organizations".  It represents an attempt to heal religion (or, more accurately, to skew it toward actual religious activity) by insisting upon the greater inclusion of the spiritual dimension of individuals within cultural activity.  However it is this inclusion of a genre of experience into the general cultural field which constitutes the core of religious activity.

Once religion has been differentiated from "claimed membership" and "local symbols and terminology" we encounter a phenomena that operates irrespective of the overly casual distinction between the secular & the sacred.  We have encountered something which is equi-valid in those areas where we say, half-jokingly, that one operates his love of food, fly-fishing or home decor "religiously".  These and other naturally occurring religious phenomena must join with the authentically religious instances within faith-traditions to provide the natural scientific basis of a theory of religion.  Ultimately this is, more or less, convergent with terms like "renaissance" or "civilization" or "cultural flourishing".  This should not surprise us.  As soon as we are post-orthodox in our approach to religion we are studying something which has no special connection to its linguistic label -- just as a zoologist's interest in frogs takes for granted that the word "frog" is not specially connected to the natural phenomenon they are studying.

RELIGION therefore more closely resembles the successful cultivation of excess bio-cultural coherence -- or "meaningfulness" and "edification" -- from within any aspect of the general social field of the contemporary epoch.  The notion of contemporary is key.  Nostalgia for previous phases of the degree-of-religiosity-of-culture all too often dominates and hijacks discussions.  The affirmation of the religionizing activities of ancient Romanized Jews bear only the most tangential relationship to what religion means today.  If it mean something in the present moment "back then" then it means something equally in the present moment today.  We must not let the study of religious history be conflated with the study of religion no matter how many regressive and merely nostalgic elements rampantly assert themselves as the social standard-bearers of religion.  One might even argue that the prominent of such sentiments is a sign of the misunderstanding (and therefore the inadequate production) of actual religion in our epoch.

Generally speaking people are much more inclined to accept contemporaneity as a feature of individual spiritual experience than of religious activity.  Perhaps they even look forward to a time when "religions" incorporate more of today's spiritual attitudes and practices.  However this view is slightly askew.  It obscures the perpetual contemporaneity of religion itself.

Religion should not be viewed as the social activity of spiritually-active individuals but rather as the social correlate of spirituality.  That means that processes of spiritual development (i.e. the progressive integration of sub-personalities, energies and states to create depth and an excess of feeling-attention over the contents of cognition) within an individual are paralleled socially by the progressive integration of genres of human activity to produce novel aesthetic depth and a (spoken or unspoken, conscious or unconscious) sense of surplus resonance which is the self-apotheosis of otherwise secular/pagan society.

In this view of religion -- which I have outlined and clarified in numerous places -- we can assume a modernity-appropriate set of definitions.  This appear initially idiosyncratic but quickly fit organically into place as they rehabilitate classic religious terminology without unnecessarily relegating its meaning to prior time periods or the Other-Who-is-Presumed-to-Believe.  We look down upon or contextually around such things and require a definition that is consonant with our actual viewpoint -- one which also actively undermines our allegiance to inadequate forms.  For example: an infidel is someone who believes in the existence of "believers vs. non-believers" -- regardless of what side they imagine themselves to be on.  That is to say a person whose contextual assumptions about religion are insufficient for the current world situation and thereby do not participate in "christendom" in its broad contemporary sense. 

This operates very harmoniously with the widespread practice of meeting people and affirming our lack of "believership" prior to discussing our ideas, allegiances, sentiments and experiences.  In a global context most authentic religion is exchanged under the holy sign of uncertainty or denial of fixed allegiance.  But this should be taken as a specifically religious situation and not as "agnostic" or "spiritual but not religious".  Those notions maintain the pernicious habit of over-weighting outdated membership-clans as the primary referent of religious discussion.

3

Religious Pluralism

But I would go ever further -- extending this principle into the assertion that religion is a noun with no plural (i.e. more like "Life" than like "lives"; more like "style" than like "fashion fads"; more like "water" than like "lakes").  On this basis we examine examples of religious activity as extensions of the general concept rather than trying to approximate the general concept from traditionally asserted examples.

In fact there is even a subtle narcissism in the concept of religious pluralism.  

Why?  Firstly because it operates on a definition of religion which capitulates to narrow (more narcissistic) cultural pools as if outdated tribal and ethnocentric worldspaces were a legitimate "given" from which to reason about the general and future possibilities of religion.  Secondly because it imputes an unnecessary and peculiar notion that honoring diversity in religion equates to affirming our culture's popular discourse about who the religions are (i.e. what "names" we have heard about).  And thirdly because it perpetuates subtle hegemonic and isolationist aggression that reside within conventional political and academic forms of discourse on the subject of so-called "different religions".  

In opposition to these and other linear models of religion I would suggest a metaphorical fractal -- in which a basic pattern attractor is being re-formed from differing intitial circumstances by the reiteration of a particular procedure.  Human religion, although variable and emergent, roughly constitutes a comprehensive whole which is progressively approximated by ongoing religious development starting from any particular cultural pool.

Neuro-biological and anthropological studies (which can neither be removed from the essence of religion nor can they claim to comprehensively elucidate it) demonstrate the general universality of the functions in human bio-spiritual organisms which are used in various situations to generate religious experience and forms.  While not all of them are used in any given local context that is not reason to assert the essential variety of these contexts.  The religious "phonemes" from which local language might derive comprise the actual human alphabet regardless of the styles and differences which WE have come to conventionally associated with this or that group.  

This becomes apparent when we deal with supposedly aboriginal groups whose religious terminology is often left in its natural mythic state (Great Spirit, etc.).  What shines forth is the colloquial, universal functions separated from the particular names and sub-cultures which have sprung in particular geographic and historical regions.  In fact the perpetuation of the toxic (anti-humanist) custom of non-translation of religion terms maintains an exotic allure which exaggerates the diversity of the variable local and partial expressions of the basic human package of "religious enactment machinery".  

We should be thinking of religion as though we were discussing the biological realities of the reproduction of children and not the relatively superficial matter of local sexual customs.  Focus on the customary elements maintains false and ultimately unjustified patterns of division which are used to maintain inter-cultural antagonism and subtle hegemony.  

The typical habit, for example, of not translating the word "Allah" into English may appear as either respectful or conventional but it subtly alienates THEM and denies them our colloquial comprehension of their ultimate signifiers.  Maintaining exoticism isolates us and ostracizes the Other.  But when we release this pernicious habit we find that almost the entire basis for discussing the plurality of religions vanishes.

We observe that the tendency to identify "a" religion with the local geological, racial or historical grouping which provides the cultural context in which basic human religionizing functions were partially enacted is one that both denies full dignity to that group and refuses the basic understanding which leads to the appropriate production of religion today from out of our current colloquial and total cultural context.

4. 

"Looking Down on Each Other"

We need not impute hegemony to either mutual recognition or evaluative comparison.  The notion that religions typically "look down upon each other" is narrow.  The majority of this is merely the contingent effect of comparing religious form derived in tribal and ethnocentric contexts and mistaking that level (i.e. below the current context) for a characteristic of religion.  That is to say the matter is not simple.  To discuss "looking down" means avoiding the self-involved trap of treating this as a monolithic negative phenomenon to be minimized.  The diverse sources and potential positive and negative version of "looking down" must be elaborated between religions and also where such normal inter-type antagonism are perpetuated in religious studies.  Where ought it to be maintained as a mechanism of flourishing?  Where ought it to be undermined as the inertia of pre-rational, pre-humanist bias?

5. 

Implicit Divine Univocal Plurality

Unity is a grouping-into-one.  It requires the retroactive presumption of prior multiplicity (i.e. there was a "set" which got grouped).  However prior multiplicity shares a common element of  "manyness" which operates in certain respects as if it were a non-monistic One.  We see that plurality occupies or converges into the "spot" that is announced in various traditions as their apex encounter with transcendental unity.  This is the appropriate location of plurality in religious study -- and not at the false and merely conventional socio-historical level of "different religions". 

The supposition of an indeterminate Divine Other (with whom we co-enact equi-valid transcendental formats) has two main problems:

a) It mislocates the Divine Univocal Plurality as though it were in a relational "elsewhere" which can be contacted.  This risks nihilistic thinking by attributing a void, non-existential status to the ontological Divine. While it may not assert this directly, it tends to provoke the sense of negotiating with a pre-existing "it" who is located elsewhere.  The vision of this negotiation constitutes a seductive opportunity to conceive a proto-metaphysical Other in distinction to the manifest world or else a specific nebulous entity within the cosmos.  The unthinkableness of such a scenario ought to eliminate it from our thinking -- even though, clearly, no higher vision can operate without some assimilation of the boundary-of-thinkability.  It is simply that the implication of an "other side" to this boundary is problematic.

b) It serves to explain -- and thereby reinforce -- the essentially irreligious notion of religion as a field of alternative validities which are fantasized in response to superficial differences of phraseology and divergent political belief-claims.  

The first situation is false until the implicit, intrinsically divergent-convergent and transformationally secular nature of the sacred is made explicit.  And the second problem remains in effect until all terms grouped as "religious" are entered into a single, non-exotic language context and understood as valid relative to the implied background worldspace in which its major cultural elements are arising AND all of this is comprehended akin to a fractal unfolding of partial and progressive variants of a common existential, neuro-biological and spiritual syntax which generates novel relgionization at the site of coherent de-genre-fication within any "secular" situation.

6.

Levels of Complexity of Religion are not Devaluations

The multiple "turnings of the wheel" in Buddhism provide an illustrative example of how people do not imply, via the claim of additional more complete layers, any reduction in the status of other versions of religion.  The Greater Vehicle of Lord Whitesnake (nagarjuna) and later the Tantric and other forms of Buddhism articulate an expanding hierarchy of inclusion which does not diminish the perceived ultimacy of Siddhartha's teachings or status.  This should be taken as a general fact that the proponents of layers of complexity whereby manifestations of religion can be compared and evaluated are in no sense demeaning or diminishing each other. 

To postulate that nonduality traditions exceed, all other things being equal, traditions which affirm the merely Unconditional or Mythic-Astral forms of Divinity merely makes a claim about the relative level of syntactical comprehensiveness implied by the languaging AND the developmental observation that one understanding tends to emerge out of another -- but not vice versa.  There is no sneaky devaluing necessarily implied by this and one might equally seek the source of such devaluing in the psychology of the one who interprets the structure in that fashion.  Perhaps he who smelt it dealt it. 

Even such phrases as "highly dubious equivalences" suggest a pre-existing bias which mislocates essential religious diversity in the surface diversity of asserted traditions -- which I would insist is the least significant aspect for religious study. 

7.

The Mutually Supportive Styles & Interior Levels of Religious Pluralisms

Ecumenical pluralism is correct.  Or not.  All the styles of pluralism are styles which admit to more or less depth, more or less comprehensiveness and coherence -- depending on who is holding them at any given time. 

Just as the religious function in human affairs (the general function which combines human affairs) depends upon the perspective and capacity of individuals and is not directly correlated to to their nominal inclusion in an asserted social faith-category but, rather, dependent upon hidden styles and layers of structure, so to are the various formats of "religious pluralism" also available to every kind of approach.  

It makes no sense -- in this sense -- to distinguish participatory co-enaction of ontological spiritual truth in relationship to an undefined Spirit from things like ecumenical, soteriological or post-modern religious pluralism.  Those categories either do not strictly apply (or else are used simply as markers to assert parameters which are required in order to isolate a particular layer/phase of understanding within the pluralistic mode).  

We may say that an integrative pluralism requires (as per soteriology) a diversity of redemptive states whose existential ambivalence toward phenomenology and ontology must be taken as a clarification of the qualitative and functional nature of the operation involved in such transformative possibilities.  We may say that (with post-modernity) a grammatical analysis must underlie a pluralistic theology. We may say (with ecumenical pluralism) that the recognition of types of religious activity must be set apart from linguistic and social categories (i.e. who is a Christian). 

These are not refuted possibilities of pluralism but elements in the general set of requirements for establishing coherent religiosity in a pluralistic or post-pluralistic epoch. 

8.

The Future of Religion

As for the future of Religion?  

The options (triumph of one faith, hybrid of many, mutually changed mutations, spirituality without religion, etc.) are merely a scattering of points which collectively produce a vague description of what the generic religionizing tendency and skill-set of human beings is already doing.  In that sense it is both fairly accurate but also NOT a set of alternatives. 

Since there are no multiple religions we do not look forward through the lens of combinations, dominations or relinquishments.  Such outcomes and remixes are demonstrations of the cultural circumstance of the emerging world but must be carefully teased apart from religiosity.  

When people take turns making dinner, this does not amount to a new phase of the human digestive process.  The workings of digestion are largely distinct from changes in the kitchen.  They inform a more or less healthy adaption to whatever resources we have available to consume but are not thereby entered into particularly new situations or combinations of old situations.  

The patterns of stylistic interaction between "traditions" and "claim-groups" are relatively insignificant epiphenomena to the religious activity of human beings -- both that which gave rise to past religious validities and that which is current producing today's and tomorrow's validities.  Just as in the past, the majority of this activity passes un-nominated.  It is "secular" so to speak because it is (a) not necessarily an object of religious assertion (b) rested in functions which modify the vitality of today -- vitality which is commonly excluded by those groups which seek to reject actual religion in favor of the nostalgic commitment to an outdated and exotic religiosity.

Religion is active now under the guise of secular meaningfulness reaching for depth and surplus coherence outside of conventional cultural categorizations (which are historically and for the future) indicators of non-religiousness.  And, yes, some of this activity occurs within individuals and groups who fancy themselves or politically identify as "religions" -- but they are by far the junior partners in religion.  Religion has never waited upon the name "religion" but is actively only where uplifting re-connection and trans-genre cultural integration permits bio-psycho-social and interpersonal evocation of excess coherence at any "level" and in any "zone" of being. 

Today "spiritual but not religious" is a popular, cautious name for today-and-tomorrow's religion.  Such phrasing is uniquely suited to a world wherein claims about religion invoke danger and stress.  However the up-raising of our current bio-cultural experience, via the integration of genres and the flourishing of spiritual in real time, goes on irregardless of belonging to a "tradition" or not.  

The activity of religionizing inevitably begins with partial expressions (i.e. of some subset of religion) emerging from the cultivating of local culture -- but always in reference to the general understanding of the cultural background.

epilogue

Although I (and we) share most of Ferrer's vision for the kind of religiosity we would like to see in the future we must temper that with three things:

(a) a de-emphasis on "religions" as the primary example of human religious activity and the replacement of outdated (contemporaneously inauthentic) definitions by modern and post-modern understandings.

(b) a clarification of the distinction between religion & spirituality -- where we understand this gap to mean more than simply the fact that spiritual activated individuals also happen to have social effects upon others. 

(c) a cautious intellectual hygiene which is vigilant for any implied metaphysical or nihilistic facets to our vision

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Which of Ferrer's texts did you read, LP?  I'm guessing The Future of Religion: Four Scenarios was one.  Any others?  (One that gives a good updated overview of his thinking is "Participatory Spirituality and Transpersonal Theory: A Ten-Year Retrospective."  I can email a copy to you if you'd like).

As for his picture, do you think you have the right one?

I prefer to use a photo of "him" pre-makeover.  More authentic.  More gravitas.  As I'm re-editing the post above, clarifying and simplifying, I am reading 4 Scenarios as well as "Plurality of Religions and the Spirit of Pluralism".

I'd like to talk a little about the "infidelity" of the concept of religious pluralism.  As I understand your contention that religion should only be conceived in the singular -- as the intersubjective form or expression of a universal human integrative activity, namely the "production of surplus meaningful coherence" -- I relate it to Sloterdijk's Nietzschean/Dionysian strategy of conceptualizing religion as a species of anthropotechnics or human transformative practice.  For Sloterdijk, human religious practice is, especially, practice or acsesis: the metaphysical or postmetaphysical (re)cognition or (re)production of vertical tensions, which inspire individuals and cultures towards greater conditions of well-being, flourishing, and accomplishment. But in accepting this definition, true religiosity soon slips out of the bounds of 'traditional religion' -- and something like the Olympics becomes a genuine instance of global human religiosity.    

Your definition of religion primarily in terms of its transformative function -- in your words, as a universal process of cultivating "meaningful intersubjective surpluses of coherent flourishing through the more perfect blending of diverse genres of social activity" -- is also not far, in my view, from Ferrer's "more relaxed universalism."  He locates the universality of religion primarily in the practical sphere, the shared 'ocean of emancipation,' which consists of our efforts towards, and realization of, states of greater integration, holistic individual and socio-ecological well-being, and reduced narcissism, among other things.

Conceiving of religion in these universal and pragmatic terms certainly can help us sidestep the (often ethnocentrically-sourced) limits inherent in our received definitions of this term, and encourage greater cross-faith-tradition understanding and solidarity.

But with all that said, I still want to ask:  In your view, is it inherently divisive and fragmenting to speak of lives as opposed to Life?  Or to speak of cultures instead of Culture?  Or practices instead of Practice?  Or sports instead of Sport?

Regarding the first question, of lives vs. Life, there is certainly philosophical value in speaking of Life in the abstract, but speaking (also) of 'lives' helps avoid the potential reduction of any individual life form to an expendable 'instance' of generic Life-process.

Regarding the other questions, for instance of practices vs. Practice or sports vs. Sport, it doesn't seem much is lost either way if we speak of sports or Sport (which accommodates multiple styles or forms of sporting activity).  We could easily use both, without much issue.  And the same goes for art: we can speak of 'the arts' or we can speak of Art (which accommodates various styles, genres, schools, etc).  It doesn't seem to me that we show infidelity to the spirit of Art if we speak, also, of multiple 'arts.'

Is there any problem or shortcoming, in your view, then, in maintaining a practice of speaking both of religions and Religion?

Layman Pascal responded to me over on the Facebook forum.

LP:  "Both Ferrer & Sloterdijk are quite close to my feelings -- and I do think "the Olympics" and many other phenomenon should be analysed in the same breath as "traditional religions". Is it intrinsically divisive to think in terms of "lives" rather than "Life"? No. We cannot separate the many and the one in any comprehensive concept. However we need to balance and lean in particular directions in particular zones of inquiry. What we want to do, I think, is ensure that the generic function of religion is both given full status relative to the standard habit of reasoning from historically-nominated "religious" AND also privilege the rational, pluralist and organic-planetary enactive models as the the basic reference frame. It seems to me that the "various religions" should be (a) creatively reduced in significance (b) defined theologically according to functional difference in perspectives and not by our inherited set of "names and ritual-teams" and (c) honored politically. It starts to become problematic, in my view, when our discussions take for granted the normativity of orthodox memberships, terminology and belief-groups as if these were uniquely significant in terms of analyzing the phenomenon of religion.

What I add is that "infidelity" is understood relative to the essential wager of religion -- which is that the existing energies and forms within the given and emerging cultural field can and should be included together in a common definition. So the point is not that we pass judgement against the investigation of various religious but that "to be religious" is an act that is relative to the actual worldview of the person doing the investigation. If we are planetary, humanist, rational, trans-rational, etc. then to be "pious" means, in part, defining religion according to that frame -- and from that frame the presumption of us/them, of believers/non-believers appears irreligious. And this is not fundamentally different than what occurs within an ethnocentric and tribal religious context it is simply that we are not looking from that context."

My response on FB:

Thanks for your response, LP. I will come back to it in a moment. First, just a couple comments on the opening of your original post...


LP: "What is this Somebody's positions? Basically that so-called integrative approaches to religious pluralism
maintain a non-objective privileging of certain religions above others -- or else a reductive elimination of the transcendental-ontological element upon which religion depends. And that the future of religion may be approximated by envisioning one or more outcomes based on the interactions or cessations of 'religions'.

Nothing could be further from the truth..."

Here, Ferrer-somebody's position, I think, is not that integrative approaches intrinsically or necessarily do such things -- he's not speaking in the abstract, and is not criticizing all 'integrative' approaches per se, since he also is interested in integration. Rather, he is arguing that Wilber specifically has tended to engage in such privileging (namely of Advaita, Zen, and Dzogchen) in his kosmological and psychospiritual model-building. Personally, I think there's merit to this criticism; I would argue that Wilber has attempted to rectify this in more recent writings (with his "3 Faces of God" and his tetra-enactive model, for instance), but that there nevertheless *has* been such theological privileging in some of his earlier, foundational books. And more clarifying postmetaphysical-integrative work could be done in this area (as I think some of us are indeed trying to do). Regarding the "reductive elimination of the transcendental-ontological element upon which religion depends," I believe you are referring to another targeted -- rather than general, abstract -- criticism of Ferrer's: namely, his criticism of a passage in *Integral Spirituality* where Wilber says that virtually all of the findings of the mystics -- the spiritual domains, levels, processes, entities, etc, really the whole great chain of being -- can be located in the Upper Left quadrant. Is this what you're referring to? If so, I think Ferrer is right to question and challenge such apparent reductionism. But I am doubtful that this is what Wilber intends. I discussed this in a footnote in a previous paper, directing Ferrer to Wilber's Excerpt G, for instance, where he makes clear that he does not (necessarily) intend a modernist/psychological reduction of all so-called spiritual phenomena to the subjective-interior of the individual.

A few more posts from that thread:

theurj: From another angle, it seems that our categories can be too rigid and hence one of them can become a dominant hegemony, e.g. scientific materialism. Or the one true Buddhism that transcends and includes the others. Hence the need for transcorporal hybridization, which allows some overlapping and serves to check and balance categories with each other. And yet each category maintains its autonomy amidst all its relations. Indeed this can be analogous to image schema, the most basic of our embodied categories and from which the more abstract ones spring. Which of course, to put it in those terms, are about very basic distinctions/connections like in/out, one/many. Those basic categories, while a dual pairing, are still distinctly autonomous in a singularly decomposable differentiation.

I suggest the metaparadigm comes in per Faber's boundary line or slash (/) which he calls 'in/difference.' It's not by accident that enclosed in parentheses like that it looks like a vagina with a wry smile. My gal Khora gets around. And has been compared to a nurturing nursing station between the Intelligible and the Sensible. (As are image schema, by the way.) To put it in 'religious' terms, I worship her and the Ground she in/habits. Let us pray in her name, a(wo)men.

LP: Ed Weird, I agree completely. The "splice" is the permeable connector-separator between all types and enables both their identity and their hybridization. But then we have two further discussions (1) which are the main types divided by in/difference as opposed to minimal types which are merely popularly referred to, and (2) how do we go about retroactively presuming the conditions for hybridization such that our act is both creative and naturalized according to our current level of insight?

Balder: This conversation is quite interesting and encouraging for me; I'm enjoying the divergent/convergent play. In arguing for the value of recognizing 'real alternatives' offered by different traditions, I do not intend by that to encourage an essentializing of religious traditions, nor to absolutize traditional or 'received' boundaries between them. I agree that interspirituality* -- which creatively transcends and transgresses these received religious boundaries -- is a telling sign of the religiosity of our time, and accords with your account of de-genre-fication (and the surplus coherence and meaningfulness that can generate), LP. (*And polydoxy and similar movements and trends.)

In one of my papers (on translineage spirituality and interreligious relationships), you may recall that I appealed to (a modified version) of Latour's principle of irreduction. In it, I argued that religious traditions -- or, more properly, generative (en)closures, which need not be limited to any traditionally recognized religious institutions -- find their integrity (their irreducibility) in their indefinite ever-reducibility. The 'components' of the tradition or meaning-system can always be reduced to (correlated or identified with, explained by, etc) other things, both within and outside of the system. But this always requires 'work' -- the work of translation, correlation, reconfiguration, etc. Which means, a generative (en)closure's particularity and integrity is not something pre-given, but in a sense is always achieved or 'renewed' through such work.

Regarding some of the most recent comments on this thread (from LP and Edwyrd on the splice, the main types to consider, etc), I think Latour can bring something interesting to this. As you may know, one of Latour's most recent works is a meditation on 'the modes of existence.' He has identified 15 primary ones so far. Of the 15, two modes (while included among the other modes) are more properly meta-modes: network and preposition. Networks are series of association that allow things to exist by means of other things, and the prepositional modes mark the differences between types of networks (and thus also help to identify the different types). While not a mode-proper, but more as a theoretical foil or adversary, he often talks about Double-Click as another 'character' in relation to the two meta-modes. Double-Click is a metaphor for the common assumption that information can be easily transported (with just a double-click!) from one domain or network or context into another intact, without requiring the "work" of reinterpretation / translation / reconfiguration.

Latour's project is an example of de-genre-fication: he doesn't take the modern(ist) domains or value spheres -- science, religion, law, etc -- for granted, but instead, using his modes of existence, shows the multiple ways they are braided and imbricated.

theurj: In other words... objet (fucken) a.

Joseph: "There is no religion higher than truth" In Ferrer's paper, "The Future of Religion Four Scenarios, On Dream," all these scenarios will be subsumed once it is recognized that religion, spirituality, psychology, mathematics, logic, science, art, culture, economics, systems theory, ALL are being writ using the same script. Once that script can be explained and demonstrated, everything else becomes inheritance and polymorphism.

However, is the world ready for this impossible thing that could unite all religions; all domains of knowledge? The mere possibility of such a thing could be enough to drive men mad.

From Evans, D. (1996). "An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis," we have this as the definition of the THING:

"The Thing is characterised by the fact that it is impossible for us to imagine it' (S7, 125). Lacan's concept of the Thing as an unknowable x, beyond symbolisation, has clear affinities with the Kantian 'thing-in-itself'. [...] As well as the object of language, das Ding is the object of desire. It is the lost object which must be continually refound. […] The Thing is thus presented to the subject as his Sovereign Good, but if the subject transgresses the pleasure principle and attains this Good, it is experienced as suffering/evil (Lacan plays on the French term mal, which can mean both suffering and evil, see S7, 179), because the subject 'cannot stand the extreme good that das Ding may bring to him' (S7, 73). It is fortunate, then, that the Thing is usually inaccessible (S7, 159). […] After the seminar of 1959-60, the term das Ding disappears almost entirely from Lacan's work. However, the ideas associated with it provide the essential features of the new developments in the concept of the objet petit a as Lacan develops it from 1963 onwards." [end quote]

From: Zizek, S. (2008). "The Sublime Object of Ideology" describing underwater images of the wreck of the Titanic as an example of the impossible thing.

" ... looking at the photos of the wreck of the Titanic taken recently by undersea cameras -where lies the terrifying power of fascination exercised by these pictures? It is, so to speak, intuitively clear that this fascinating power cannot be explained by the symbolic over determination, by the metaphorical meaning of the Titanic: its last resort is not that of representation but that of a certain inert presence. The Titanic is a Thing in the Lacanian sense: the material leftover, the materialization of the terrifying, impossible jousssance. By looking at the wreck we gain an insight into the forbidden domain, into a space that should be left unseen: visible fragments are a kind of coagulated remnant of the liquid flux of jouissance, a kind of petrified forest of enjoyment.
This terrifying impact has nothing to do with meaning -or, more precisely, it is a meaning permeated with enjoyment, a Lacanian jouis­sance. The wreck of the Titanic therefore functions as a sublime object: a positive, material object elevated to the status of the impossible Thing. And perhaps all the effort to articulate the metaphorical meaning of the Titanic is nothing but an attempt to escape this terrifying impact of the Thing, an attempt to domesticate the Thing by reducing it to its symbolic status, by providing it with a meaning. We usually say that the fascinating presence of a Thing obscures its meaning; here, the opposite is true: the meaning obscures the terrifying impact of its presence." [end quote]

"The Thing: The Ultimate in Alien Terror:" An example of polymorphism gone amuck.

Which reminds me of our horror and spirituality thread. And this on Zizek and the objet a.

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

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